Texas Tech football: It’s a shame Tech and Mike Leach never reconciled

Texas Tech football: It's a shame Tech and Mike Leach never reconciled

Sometimes life robs us of opportunities to correct what we owe. Other times, it is our own ego that is to blame. In the case of former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach, who passed away in December, and the powers that be at Texas Tech University, it was both, and that unfortunate reality is one we have to face again this week.

Wednesday, it was announced that Leach would be one of eight people inducted into the Texas Tech Hall of Fame or Hall of Honor in 2023 (The Hall of Fame is designated for former athletes, while the Hall of Honor recognizes non-athletes who have made significant contributions to the athletic department… why we can’t just combine the two into one entity is puzzling, but that’s how is) and while it’s a grand gesture by the university to posthumously honor the school’s all-time winningest football coach, one can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by the fact that the long-standing riff between Leach and Tech never ended. was put into practice. bed, at least not while Leach was alive.

Where are you on the issue of Leach vs. Texas Tech is irrelevant now. But for years, the fact that Leach never received his full 2009 salary after his abrupt and controversial firing in December (Leach claimed he still owed about $2 million, an amount he never received due to the university’s claim that he was fired for cause) was a sword “the Pirate” was willing to swing at any opportunity to try to sway public opinion in his favor in hopes of getting what he rightfully believed he owed.

“They are true Texas Tech crooks”, Leach once said during a press conference when he was head coach at Washington State some eight years after his time at Lubbock ended. “Are there bandits there? Yes. I mean, like, criminals. They should be put in jail.”

Despite lawsuits that brought Leach to the Texas Capitol, social media campaigns, and even billboards erected across Lubbock supporting his cause, Leach was thwarted at every turn by state laws that protected the university. So the bitterness toward some at Texas Tech has never gone away for the man who put Red Raider football on the national map in a way no one else has.

I don’t know what the right answer was in that fight. Not smart enough to wade into legal wrangles and offer an informed opinion and not privileged enough to distinguish fact from fiction in the whole Leach v Adam James mess, I never felt able to take sides on the issue. Instead, I just wanted it to go away. I wanted the university I loved and the football coach who gave me so much joy during my time as a student and who was more responsible than anyone else for turning me into a rabid Texas Tech football fan to make up for it so Leach could eventually be celebrated for the incredible feats he accomplished in his 10-year run on the Southern Plains.

We got a little closure in the 2021 Liberty Bowl when the Red Raiders defeated Leach and his Mississippi State Bulldogs 37-7 in Memphis. While that memorable night helped many Red Raider fans move the Leach debate forward, Leach’s sudden heart attack and untimely death just a year later would prevent Tech and Leach from burying the hatchet and coming together to celebrate a man who not only changed the course of Texas Tech football, but the game of football in general, due to his revolutionary passing attack, which is still influencing the sport across the country, from flag football games in the local park to the NFL.

For what he accomplished at Tech, Leach should have eventually earned a conquering hero’s welcome. There should have been a public celebration of his contributions to a program that has neither before nor since experienced the success it enjoyed during his tenure.

Sadly, it was never meant to be. Of course, Tech wouldn’t be able to fully honor Leach while he was still coaching another university. It is not how it works.

So even if Tech’s decision makers wanted to bring Leach back and place him in the Hall of Honor before now, that wouldn’t have happened. Because of Leach’s untimely death alone, Tech is now in a place to pay tribute to the man who meant so much to so many Red Raiders and to do so as soon as possible is the right move by the university.

However, it’s a shame that the cloud of the tabloid-worthy firing and ensuing contract dispute hangs forever over the Leach-Texas Tech relationship. While the former coach has repeatedly said that he felt nothing but appreciation for the Red Raider fan base, his feelings towards the university and its leadership were clear.

I don’t know how the Leach family feels about Texas Tech right now. Do they still feel cheated out of a substantial amount of money or have they put the past behind them? Will they accept that honor from Texas Tech or will there be awkwardness surrounding Leach’s induction? Will they show up for the ceremony in the fall? Whatever the answer, it’s a shame these questions have to be asked.

I will always love Texas Tech and I will always love Mike Leach. Still, both the university and the man were complicit in the drama that ensued in the years following his resignation, and both could have come together to try to make amends had there been motivation on both sides.

However, egos of this magnitude often get in the way of what is supposed to happen and then, sometimes life intervenes before the glacier of bitterness can completely melt. That’s what happened when Leach lost his life six months ago, and as a result, he and Texas Tech were never able to celebrate together what was one of the most special periods in the university’s history. That’s a shame.